Alby Kalajzich’s father worked in the Wiluna goldmines, in Western Australia’s mid-west region, in the 1930s and 1940s, and then moved into the quarrying industry from 1949 to 1960.
When Alby joined John Dunstan & Son’s Blue Rock Quarry in Orange Grove in 1956 as a 14-year-old apprentice fitter and turner, his father was also working there.
This was the start of a professional journey for Alby that would last 51 years; he would work in plant repair and maintenance, mobile plant design and contract crushing, aggregate supply operations and quarry improvement programs for Readymix, CSR, Quarry Products NSW, Rinker and Cemex.
From the late 1980s through to the early 2000s Alby worked at various times abroad for CSR/Readymix, including roles as an engineering manager in Europe and the USA, and as a senior operations adviser in China and the US.
In between these appointments he also represented the company in a national role as an engineering manager and senior operations adviser. Alby’s career culminated in his appointment as a senior manager for Cemex in the mid-2000s. He retired in 2007, but still does some consulting on behalf of the quarrying industry today.
When Todd Kalajzich joined the industry as a quarry trainee in 1983 he worked alongside Alby at Quarry Products NSW, Allandale, just as Alby had worked alongside his father.
Todd’s CV is just as impressive as Alby’s. His industry experience spans 33 years, including 27 years of service with Boral. He is currently the quarry manager of Boral’s Dunmore Quarry (a position he has held for more than five years) in the Illawarra region of NSW, and has also been a manager at three other Boral quarries – ACT, Hall and Orange Quarries.
He also worked at Boral quarries in Seaham and Singleton in various capacities. He has been involved in nearly every facet of the quarry production stream: site trainer and assessor, health and safety representative, face loading, sales loading, truck driving, plant maintenance, and crushing plant, pug mill, blend plant and weighbridge operations.
Quarry invited Alby and Todd to discuss their family’s involvement in the extractive industry; their combined experience encompasses nearly 85 years.
Todd, is it true that as a baby your daily routine was effectively influenced by activities at Australian Blue Metals’ Readymix Gosnells Quarry?
Todd: Yes, I confirmed this with Mum. Apparently the quarry would fire a shot each day at 4pm, which would wake me up from an afternoon sleep for a bottle.
Alby: Jen [Alby’s wife and Todd’s mum] recalls hiding under the kitchen table with the kids during blast activity every day at 1600. This was back in the early 1960s, before quarry practice and standards were introduced.
Alby, what roles did you have during your time in the industry? You must have seen quite a lot of different quarrying methods in your time.
From engineering apprenticeship to senior management including maintenance and repair, engineering management, operational support roles, quarry management programs, senior adviser operations and part of a senior team focused on expanding company interests nationally and internationally.
I’ve worked on rocks from sedimentary to igneous, from basic to high silica, from hard to soft. Some of the toughest rocks with LAs as low as 12 to 14 are found in the west and north-west parts of Australia. I’ve also seen different methods of quarrying compared to traditional practices, including underground limestone quarries in Indiana, USA (American Aggregates/CSR) and underwater quarrying in Florida, USA (Rinker/CSR).
What inspired you both to join the quarry industry?
Alby: The drive to start work and do my own thing, not forgetting the need to continue my personal education.
Todd: I can always remember the smell of the quarry dust in Dad’s vehicles. I often sat in his car with my little sister, listening to the two-way radio crackling and trying to hear what people were saying. I can’t smell the quarry dust any more, though. I must be used to it. When I left school in Year 10 in the 1980s, there weren’t a lot of jobs to choose from. I had put in a few applications for an apprentice boilermaker in Newcastle and was awaiting a response. A week or so later, after not hearing anything, Dad asked me if I would like to start at the quarry. The deal we made was that I had to begin at the start of the quarrying process, which was on the drill, and to start my study with Box Hill Institute. I was keen, as most apprentices were earning about $120 a week and I was going to be taking home over $300.
I enrolled with Box Hill to start my studies in the mid-Eighties, but found it too difficult after joining the Readymix SA contracting division. There were no emails back then. I continued with my studies 20 years later. It was better late than never and I guess knowing how to operate plant has helped me with my decisions as a manager, and employees seem to respond positively to the fact that you have an understanding.
Alby, how did you feel about Todd following you into the industry?
I had no problem with Todd’s choice. It was almost inevitable. He was keen to make something of his life and I think he has done well.
Todd, did Alby’s work also inspire you to follow him into the industry?
As a child, it’s hard to not think that blowing up rock and driving big trucks isn’t awesome. I definitely looked up to Dad!
Having the opportunity to gain some insight into quarries as a child/adolescent definitely had some influence on my career choice. We spent hours sitting in the Kingswood in the car park at Gosnells Quarry, waiting for Dad as he had to quickly drop in and check something while on the way to our grandparents’ house.
Dad has been important for advice and occasionally steering me away from some not so wise decisions – he still does! We’ve never talked too much about operational issues, but he obviously knows a lot about quarries and can always give advice on plant and equipment. I’ve always made a point of listening to the older gentlemen throughout my career and have found most were more than willing to tell stories from the past.
I can remember stretching smoko out to listen on occasions!
You have both worked for the same quarry businesses, haven’t you?
Alby: We have worked for the same companies in Quarry Products NSW and CSR/Readymix National. Although we’d often discuss operational issues, we managed not to get too involved.
Todd: I often felt when I was with Readymix that I had to work twice as hard to fit in because I was often referred to as “Alby’s son”. Leaving to work for an opposition company (Boral) seemed a logical solution.
Do you both anticipate the next generation of the Kalajzich family may follow you into the quarrying industry?
Alby: Quarrying is an industry that depends so much on markets and long-term reserves, one would imagine that it will be around for a long time. If younger members of the family have the desire for operational experience and capable management skills and can evaluate the benefits, there is no reason why they would not be interested.
Todd: I overheard my seven-year-old talking to his Pop a few weeks ago. Tom asked George what he wanted to do when he left school and George said he wanted to be a quarry manager “like Dad”. His Pop responded: “You will have to start from the ground up and people may not be operating machines when you leave school.” I believe George now thinks running a quarry will be like playing a computer game! My boys are a bit young at the moment to tell, maybe.
What advice do you have for other members of your family that are interested in quarrying?
Alby: Firstly, ensure you have maximised your educational opportunities, then gather an understanding for the industry and integrated businesses and evaluate the overall opportunities available.
Todd: As Dad suggested above, and be honest to the company and in your dealings with people. It’s a good industry, from a safety point of view, always look out for potential hazards. I will never forget my first day working in a quarry. Dad said: “Watch out for conveyors, suspended loads, and you might hear some swearing!” He was correct.
What do your respective wives have to say about your work in the industry?
Alby: Great, fantastic. We’ve loved every minute of it and got to see the world, and met and made great, lifelong friends. Jen always tells people she has been to Vegas about 20 times and visited Elvis’ Graceland, which may not have happened if we hadn’t wanted to work overseas.
Todd: I am yet to travel the world, although Tracey and I are both appreciative of what quarrying has allowed us to do in our lives. We have lived in a couple of quarry houses on property, the boys love it.
Alby, why did you decide to leave the industry?
I had put in for 51 years, travelled the world and met some great people, I believed we had a good team in the CSR/Readymix/Rinker organisation. Living in 22 different homes in four countries (China, France, UK, USA) and three states in Australia, as well as being away from family, made me think we needed a rest. Consulting has helped me to slowly withdraw from an otherwise full and interesting career.
Todd, how has the industry changed for you in your time?
I have seen a lot of change over the years for the better. I guess the process has not changed that much, although the technology that is being used now has allowed us to personally communicate and run our mobile and fixed plant more efficiently.
Not a lot of young people were being employed in the quarrying industry during my earlier years, due to the nature of the work and that it was not as safe as it should have been. More mature people were the preferred option.
I can remember being nervous completing some tasks, and when you look back now you realise how much the industry has improved and how we used to get the job done with only an instinct for self-preservation. I can only imagine that this was even more so for my Grandad and Dad’s generation! I could write a book on near misses!
How long have you both been IQA members? And what value has this affiliation with the Institute provided for your family?
Alby: Since about 1964. Keeping in touch with people within the industry and what people are doing within the industry has been beneficial to us both. We still communicate with people associated with the IQA, whether it be work, health and family.
Todd: I joined the IQA in 2009 while in Canberra. It’s a great organisation and I think the Young Members Network will be beneficial for the industry in years to come.
|KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY!|
Are you part of an extended family that works in quarrying and the extractive industries?
If you and a significant other – eg father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, husband, wife – work in the industry, then we want to hear from you!
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